Deciding to Make PRIs: Getting the Board on Board

Get the frame right — the trick, said one foundation president, is to introduce the idea without being didactic. Start off with some informal education by asking trustees whether or not they have heard of PRIs. Then offer them some background reading and point to other foundations that use PRIs. Finally, he said, underscore the connection to mission. The trustees of a foundation in the South, for instance, embraced PRIs when they realized that PRIs could help connect grassroots groups to mainstream institutions, including capital markets, and advance the foundation’s mission. “They see that PRIs are a way to use the market to advance our goals around poverty reduction,” the executive director said of her trustees.

Make it easy to say yes - start with clear and simple deals. “Don’t get too fancy,” one PRI funder advised. “Keep it small and simple. Build your systems first, and then try riskier deals.”

Give it time — Over time, the committee — and the whole board — have come to see PRIs “as a way to expand our services to the community and stretch our dollars” in a key area: housing.

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This takeaway was derived from Program-Related Investing.